Proust is difficult to read. To say that Proust is difficult to read is actually an understatement. The opening pages of Swann’s Way devote to explain why he, as a little boy, cannot sleep. At the times of his publication, readers would even write him in despair asking to ‘please tell me what your book is about.’ The gentleman behind information desk at The Strand Bookstore in New York said most readers are alternately smitten and outraged by Proust’s prose style and cannot get page page 50. Although I feel like I am in the dark at the beginning, like in a room where drapes are drawn and the only thing I know for sure is that the young narrator, longing for his mother downstairs with dinner guests, is unable to get to sleep and that this reminds him of many other sleepless nights.
The curator at The Morgan Library and Museum, which hosted the 100th anniversary of Swann’s Way show last year, gave the advise to keep reading even if the prose doesn’t immediately make sense. Now I have just got through the first section, it’s safe to say that describing Proust in terms of plot alone does no justice to the reflections, counter-reflections and musings that form so much of the immersive pleasure he offers. The language is beautiful, with bursts of music and a hidden flow of harmony. There is a continuous flow beyond the many subordinate clauses. The central concept in Proust’s work is the belief that while life goes on we are unable to bring back the true nature of past experiences intentionally. He stresses on distinction between intentional and unintentional memory.